LODGE HISTORY TRIANGLE
There is no symbol more important in its significance, more varied in its application, or generally
diffused throughout the whole system of Freemasonry, than the Triangle. The equilateral triangle is a symbol of Deity, the three sides are symbolic of the Three Great Lights, the Three Lesser Lights the first three degrees of Masonry and the Forty-seventh Problem of Euclid.
SQUARE AND COMPASSES - These two symbols have been long and so universally combined to teach us, as said in earlier instruction, "to square our actions and to keep them in due bounds". They are seldom seen apart but are so kept together. They are part of the Great Lights. They refer to the Freemasons duty to the Craft and to himself.
CLASPED HANDS - Clasped or United Hands are a symbol of fidelity and trust. They here bear out the name of our Lodge (Friends on the Lahn). The Clasped Hands symbolize friendship and brotherly love.
BRASS PILLARS - They represent the two most remarkable pillars in scriptural history, the two pillars erected by King Solomon at the porch of the Temple. These pillars were called Boaz and Jachin. They have also been called the Pillars of Fire and Cloud. The symbolism is twofold; first they are symbols of strength and stability of our institution. Secondly, they are symbolic of our dependence on the Great Architect of the Universe, by which alone that strength and stability are secured.
THE COLOR BLUE - The river Lahn which flows through the Land Hessen, upon whose banks our Lodge is located and, gave the Lodge it's name, is represented by the color blue in our Bijou. That color is emphatically the color of Freemasonry. It is to us as Freemasons a symbol of universal friendship and benevolence, because it is the color of the ceiling of a Masonic Lodge, the Canopy of Heaven. It symbolizes the Blue Lodge in which we have been initiated, passed and raised.
THE COLOR GREEN - It is to the Master Mason an emblem of immortality. It is further exemplified by the Sprig of Acacia. The color Green here is also symbolic of the Lahn River Valley where our Lodge is located. We are again reminded that Masons meet on the highest hills and in the lowest valleys, even in the valley of Jehoshaphat, or some other such secret place.
In the beginning
“In The Beginning” is also a title of a pamphlet that is published by the American Canadian Grand Lodge (ACGL) which is given to each new petitioner explaining a brief and condensed outline of Freemasonry in Germany. The American Canadian Grand Lodge is one of five Grand Lodges in Germany, chartered under the United Grand Lodges of Germany (Vereinigte Grosslogen von Deutschland (VGLvD)), under whose jurisdiction the Friends on the Lahn Lodge No. 860 received its Charter and thereby empowered to work.
It is necessary before we continue to clarify that Masonry in Germany is not administratively arranged in the same manner as it is in America or in England. It is unique. The ACGL Lodges are Lodges that were chartered for the benefit of American and Canadian military personnel stationed in Germany. Therefore, be it known that "all" of these Grand Lodges thus, all such Lodges are "German" Lodges likewise, we are all German Masons.
The only difference is that we are chartered to work in the English Language and of course our membership has always been mostly American Military. But, again let’s start at the beginning for “Friends on the Lahn” Lodge, Number 860 in the Orient of Giessen, Germany
In the Year 1956 a group of U.S. Military Masons stationed in the Giessen area, West Germany, desiring to continue their Masonic fellowship in a foreign country, gathered together and officially formed a “Square and Compass Club”. They simply call it the “Giessen Square and Compass Club” and commenced meeting once a month for an evening devoted to Masonic fellowship.
In the year 1958 several brothers of the Giessen Square and Compass Club still desiring to have full Masonry, a Lodge, duly chartered, regularly authorized to work and recognized as they were in their Lodges in the different States, sent Brother Herman Boemanns to Heidelberg to discuss the formalities with Right Worshipful Brother Peter M. Rassmussen, then the District Master of the American District of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, of establishing a “Blue Lodge” in the Orient of Giessen. The basic desire for Masonic Brotherhood was the inspiration needed and the fuel that drove these Brethren to pursue obtaining a Charter from some Grand Body or Jurisdiction empowering them to work. After several meetings, held in the winter and early spring of 1959, it was decided that the time was ripe for the establishment of their own Lodge in Giessen.
On the 4th March 1959 the first founding meeting was held whereby it was determined that each Wednesday would be set aside to keep the interest of establishing a Blue Lodge in Giessen alive. On this date it was also decided that the Lodge would work under the ritual of the State of New York – King Solomon version 333 from Allen Publishing Co. and a Bylaws Committee was appointed for the purpose of choosing and preparing a set of Bylaws for the Lodge. On the 11th March 1959 a second founding meeting was held at the Giessen Post Chapel and the Bylaws Committee presented their draft version of the bylaws which were discussed and agreed upon.
The 17th March 1959 was set for the night in which the bylaws would be read and voted upon together, with the election of the five elective officer’s necessary, to establish the Lodge. Accordingly, the third founding meeting was held in the “Little Theater” at the rear of Miller Hall in the Lieberstrasse 40, on the evening of the 17th March 1959, whereby thirteen brothers petitioned the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (A. F. & A. M) under the United Grand Lodges of West Germany for a dispensation to constitute a new Lodge in the Orient of Giessen.
Name of the Lodge
As for the name of the Lodge it was decided that a name should be chosen which would reflect the brotherly love and affection existing between the German Masons in and around Giessen and their American Brethren – between men (once enemies) who had now become close friends. The City of Giessen is known as “Giessen on the Lahn” because of the River Lahn that flows through it, thus this name was simply modified to reflect that what they were, “friends”, thus “Friends on the Lahn”; suggested by Brother Boemanns and accepted by the Brethren. At the same meeting, elections were held during which Brother Paul Harvey Knox was elected to be Worshipful Master; Brother Hermann Joseph Boemanns, Senior Warden; Brother Donald Francis Samuels, Junior Warden; Brother Hugh Ross Pierce, Secretary and Brother Russel Earl Swisher, Treasurer of the new Lodge. A total of 13 names of supporting brethren were entered on the petition and duly handed over to Brother Rasmussen to be personally delivered to the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodges of Germany. It was decided that the installation would take place at 16:00 hours on the 4th April 1959 whereby all brethren would be requested to wear a dark suit and a white (light) tie, as per German custom. Brother Heinrich Otterbein, of the Giessen “Ludewig zur Treue” Lodge No. 122, would bring the ‘first light’ into the new Lodge. It was further recognized that although they would be using the N.Y. State ritual, there was no obligation to that State or a strict adherence to their ritual- it was merely a guide. On the 24th March 1959 the next scheduled meeting was held but the outcome is no longer on record however, an invitation was sent out affirming the installation on the 4th April 1959. Unfortunately the sequence meetings are also no longer on record but it seems apparent that problems had surfaced delaying the established installation dates. Nevertheless, on the 9th May 1959, the United Grand Lodges of Germany granted the petition of the Brethren and issued a Charter, Number 860, for the establishment of a “Blue” Freemason Lodge in the Orient of Giessen. On the 30th May 1959, the Officers and Brethren of “US Hessen” Lodge No. 844 in Darmstadt, Germany, traveled to Giessen and opened Lodge for the purpose of constituting and consecrating the new “Friends on the Lahn” Lodge No. 860. The meeting was held in the basement of the Giessen Post Chapel and was attended by several of the brethren from the German Lodge, ”Ludewig zur Treue” No. 122. Right Worshipful Brother Otto Emmel, Past Master of “Ludewig zur Treue” and at that time representative of the Most Worshipful Grand Master Vogel of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, brought the first light into the new Lodge. In addition to the five elected officers, three appointed officers were installed; Brother Albert Wayne Nickel, Chaplain; Brother Charles Houston Moudy, Tyler; Brother Walter Hayden Bailey, Marshal. Soon after the Lodge had been formed and Chartered, and even prior to the initiation of a single candidate, troublesome times and the loss of membership began to take their toll, on 7th July 1959, the Lodges Secretary, Brother Hugh Ross Pierce returned to the United States, on 1st September 1959 the Lodges Chaplain, Brother Nickel, departed and the Lodge was left with five members, fortunately enough, with visiting Brethren the Charter could be retained. The first initiation was held on the 10th November 1959 when Brethren Larry Flanders, Robert B. Osborn and William Rechers were initiated as Entered Apprentices. By the end of the year however, the Worshipful Master, Brother Knox transferred to Berlin, and the Senior Warden, Brother Boemanns, transferred to Heidelberg. A dispensation was received from the United Grand Lodges of Germany to hold special elections on 12th January 1960 to fill the vacancies, Brother Russel E. Swisher was elected Worshipful Master; Brother Eugene Stapleton, Senior Warden; Brother Charles Glidewell, Junior Warden; Brother James Johnston, Secretary and Brother Ernest W. Woodall, Treasurer. Regular Lodge Meetings were held in the basement of the Giessen Post Chapel from May 1959 until October 1959. During the month of November 1959, the Lodge was relocated to the attic of building 5 in the Quartermaster Depot in Giessen. During September and October 1960 meetings were held with the Brethren of the “Ludewig zur Treue” Lodge No. 122 to discuss the possibilities of working in a more fitting environment and in a more pleasant surroundings.
On the 4th October 1959 Worshipful Brother Klenk, seated -Master of “Ludewig zur Treue” Lodge No. 122, presented Worshipful Master Brother Knox, the seated Master of Friends on the Lahn Lodge No. 860, a jewel and the working jewel of the Master of the Lodge as a symbol of the brotherhood and fraternity existing between both Lodges. The first regular election of officers of the “Friends on the Lahn” Lodge No. 860 was held on 3rd May 1960. Worshipful Brother Russell E. Swisher was reelected Worshipful Master; Brother Ernest Woodall, Senior Warden; Brother Horst Volkhardt, Junior Warden; Brother Robert B. Laidlaw, Secretary; Brother Robert Stroup, Treasurer. The Officers were Installed on 28th May 1960 by Right Worshipful Brother Peter M. Rasmussen thus ending the first Masonic Year of the Lodge with eighteen active members of the Lodge. Right Worshipful Brother Peter M. Rasmussen and Brother Herman Boemanns were registered as Honorary Members. On 12th November 1960 the Lodge relocated from building 5 in the Quartermaster Depot in Giessen to the German sister Lodge “Ludewig zur Treue” which was located on the second floor above the ‘Burghof Restaurant’, 23 Neue Beue Strasse, in Giessen. For almost 19 years both Lodges prospered in Peace and Harmony enjoying their Masonic fellowship within these new Temple walls. Due to the sale of this building in 1979, the last meeting for the ‘Friends on the Lahn Lodge at this location was held on 11th December 1979. The Lodge relocated together with their German sister Lodge “Ludewig zur Treue” to the “Wilhelm zu den drei Helmen”, Lodge No. 51 in the Orient of Wetzlar, Bruelsbacherstrasse 1. The Consecration was held on 12th January 1980 and the first meeting was conducted there on 15th January 1980. Within a short period of time Brethren Charles Swindall and Riccardo Gudenzi found a suitable location for a Temple within the Giessen area in Linden, Grossen-Linden, Alte Heerstrasse 5. The new Temple was consecrated on 15th March 1981 by the Grand Master of the American Canadian Grand Lodge, the Right Worshipful Brother Billie C. Hayes. The first meeting was held in the new Temple on 19th March 1981 where the Lodge prospered in peace and harmony until the last Special Communication on the 13th December 1990. During these years the loss of membership, the increase in rent for the Temple and the drastic fall of the Dollar against the Deutsch Mark (DM) forced the Lodge to the point of complete destitution. The Lodge was limited to operate on a limited budget and as the DM continued to fall, the Lodge got closer and closer to having to close its doors. To create some revenue and keep the Lodge open, several programs were started; Brethren Armando Solis and James Moore were able to obtain the status of a ‘Private Organization’ from the Military Community which paved the way to participate in fund raising events within the Community; sponsoring Table Lodges; conduct the sale of raffles tickets. An appeal to the Brethren and the success of the programs generated enough revenue that the Lodge was able to negotiate with the landlord and the brethren of the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies (AMSRB), Orient of NATO Bases, in Lindenstruth to use their facilities at a price that allowed the Friends on the Lahn Lodge to meet its obligation. The new Temple in Reiskirchen-Lindenstruth, Alsfelder Strasse 56, was consecrated on 22nd December 1990 but unfortunately peace and harmony was only for a short period. At their last monthly meeting held in July 1994, the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies stated that the American Canadian Grand Lodge was planning to relocate their office in January 1995 to the Krupp Strasse 134 in Frankfurt and the new accommodations would include space for the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies. The Friends on the Lahn Lodge could not afford to continue the rent for the facilities in Lindenstruth alone thus, a further move was necessary. Based on the initiative of Brother Martin Meckel, a request to the Commander of Giessen North Area Support Team was made requesting accommodation for the Lodge within the Giessen Community. At a Special Communication held on the 17th November 1994 the relocating of the Lodge to Giessen was agreed upon and the preparations for the move began immediately so that on the 15th December 1994 the Lodge had moved into the basement of the „Old“ Giessen Middle School (Building 1701), Dulles Housing Area, Froebelstrasse 65. The new Temple was consecrated on 17th December 1994 in a simple ceremony and peace and harmony was to prevail for many years. During all through these trying times the Lodge was extremely active and working hard to meet their obligations as the following chronicle shows: On 5th May 1962, the Friends on the Lahn Lodge 860 held an open installation. This installation did not only surpass all previous festivities of the Friends on the Lahn but was the largest gathering of Masons ever seen in Hessen. The installation was held within the beautiful setting of the old castle of Gleiberg, on the outskirts of Giessen, with ceremonies of a lasting remembrance for all participants. The Grand Installing Master, Right Worshipful Brother Peter W. Rasmussen, ordered the Grand Marshall to escort the Elected and Appointed Officers into the Lodge. The Grand Marshall was very Worshipful Brother Jewell Brown, Worshipful Brother John R. Stacener was Grand Secretary and Brother Carter acted as Grand Chaplin. Worshipful Brother Horst Volkhardt was invested with the Apron, Badge and Jewel of his Office and Seated in the Oriental Chair, invested with the Hat and Gavel of the Lodge and accorded Public Grand Honors. Upon request of Worshipful Brother Volkhardt, Right Worshipful Brother Rasmussen proceeded to install the remaining Officers in their order of Rank. Distinguished guests were called on for remarks. Worshipful Brother Volkhardt then presented Worshipful Brother Woodall with the Past Master’s Apron and Jewel. Right Worshipful Brother Rasmussen presented Worshipful Brother Woodall the Past Master’s Certificate and Jewel of the United Grand Lodges of Germany. At 6th Mar 1962 Stated Communication, the Worshipful Master reported that the United Grand Lodge has permitted the English speaking Lodges to initiate, pass and raise nine German citizens according to the time limits of the respective American Lodges. Any German candidates above the number must be initiated, passed and raised according to the time limits imposed by the German Lodges, that being one year between degrees.
In the late 60’s, the Vietnam War began to take its toll among the Brethren of the Lodge – reports of brethren being killed in action, prisoners of war, or being seriously wounded were the concerns and topics of Lodge discussions and the draping of the Alter in black became a painful custom. Fortunately the Lodge has been spared the anguish of morning for lost brethren in the thereafter conflicts and wars in which our military members have been deployed. systerLodge On the 13th December 1977 Brother William Paul Redmon visited “Economy Lodge” No. 76 in the Orient of Winchester, England to discuss a twin-sisterly relationship between the “Economy Lodge” No. 76 and “Friends on the Lahn” No. 860 in Giessen, Germany. Brother Redom received on 2nd May 1978 a Bronze Award for his work in the coordination and forming of the twin-sisterly relationship between both Lodges. The certificate to the left is a facsimile copy of the document that was presented to brethren of Economy Lodge No. 76, declaring the twin-sisterly relationship and attesting that all brethren enjoy the full rights and benefits pertaining to Sister Lodges. At the American Canadian Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication, held on the 16th November 1963 our Worshipful Brother Horst Volkhardt was elected Grand Master of the ACGL which he held for three consecutive years (1963-1966). Likewise at the ACGL’s Annual Communication, held on 21st April 2001 in Bad Kissingen, Germany, our Lodge was once again honored to have our Worshipful Brother Donald Lamar Saint elected Grand Master of the ACGL, together with our Worshipful Brethren Martin Meckel and William (Bill) Parent being elected as Deputy District Grand Masters of districts 3 and 6 and Worshipful Brother Udo Faeber being appointed Junior Grand Deacon. At the ACGL’s Annual Communication, held on 16th April 2002 in Bad Kissingen, a special recognition by the Grand Master, Donald Lamar Saint was made to our Past Master, Very Worshipful Brother Charles E. Glidewell, who was honored for his many years of excellent service to Freemasonry, receiving the ACGL’s Honorary Senior Grand Warden Grand Rank. Brother Glidewell is a Past Master of Friends on the Lahn Lodge (1980-1982). He was appointed Grand Tiler, ACGL (1985-1995) and elected Honorary District Deputy Grand Master of the ACGL in 1991. In 1983, Glidewell joined the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies, Orient of NATO Bases. In 1989 he was invested a K.C.C.H., and in 1991 he was coroneted a 33°. In 1990 he was appointed the General Secretary of the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies, Orient of NATO Bases. The Supreme Councils for Portugal and the Cote D'ivore (Ivory Coast) have honored Brother Glidewell as a Sovereign Grand Inspector General Honorary of their Supreme Councils.
Although Friends on the Lahn Lodge proudly celebrated with optimistic confidence their 40th Anniversary on the 9th May 1999, the changing political and military environment in Europe began to take a devastating impact to our Fraternity here in Germany. With the end of the “Cold War” and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many Military Communities disappeared from the face of Europe and with them their Military Lodges. The Communities that remained were either consolidated and/or forced to “down size”, consequently the number of members and their Lodges radically changed and for many the struggling for survival began. Even though the political and military changes being made in Central Europe were respected and supported by all, the consequence of this inevitable situation meant that even further ACGL Lodges would disappear just like many others have done over the past years and with them, their historical heritage. The “Friends on the Lahn” Lodge No. 860 has been most fortunate to have true and dedicated members. Especially non-resident members scattered all over the globe, who have continued to show their moral and financial support to their ‘Mother Lodge’ throughout these troublesome years. Equally, and even during the substantial reduction of US forces in Europe and/or the deployment of our military members all over the Balkans and Middle East throughout the latter years, a small group of dedicated civilian and military members continued extremely hard to uphold the Fraternal tradition in Giessen.
As a highlight of a Memorial Day ceremony held in the Giessen Depot on the 30th May 2005, bagpipes were played as dignitaries of the 284th Base Support Battalion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, laid wreaths in the presence of representatives of the City of Giessen, the Bundeswehr, honorary and invited guests to honor those who lost their lives during wartimes. A memorial stone and plaque, donated by the Friends of the Lahn Lodge No. 860; Ludewig zur Treue Lodge No. 122; Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington & Jurisdiction, District No. 9; Prince Hall Grand Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, State ofWashington & Jurisdiction, District No. 9; and the American Legion Posts No. 4, 14 &16, was unveiled in honor of those brave soldiers who gave their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom in a quest of freeing the Iraqi people from the claws of dictatorship. The initial idea for this memorial was present to the Lodge by Bro. R. Dean Hance (Sergeant First Class, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment) upon the return of his comrades for Christmas 2004 after their almost 18 month deployment in Iraq. The idea was spontaneously welcomed and accepted by the Community Leadership, a position behind the Flagpole between the trees, a stone with a simple plaque and two benches was agreed upon as being appropriate for the memorial. The park resembling area, to the right of the main road leading into the Giessen Depot is secluded but viewable from all sides and is without question an appropriate site to pay ones respect, to contemplate or to rest a while.
As the Lodge was slowly approaching its 50th Anniversary, the announcement of the actual closure of the Giessen U.S. Military Community for the year 2007 caused serious concern for the future of the Lodge. With the official deactivation of the U.S. Military Community in Giessen on the 28th September 2007, a last meeting of the ‘Friends on the Lahn Lodge located in the basement of the „Old“ Giessen Middle School, Dulles Housing Area was held on 4th October 2007. Fortunately the Lodge found once again sanctuary under the roof of “Wilhelm zu den drei Helmen”, Lodge No. 51 in the Orient of Wetzlar, in a simple ceremony the consecration and first meeting was conducted there on 1st November 2007, whereby peace and harmony will hopefully continue to prevail for many years to come!